This year it was slightly easier than usual to narrow down my list to a top 12. I read significantly less this year, and there were fewer standout titles. However, it was still tough to select which of those standouts made the final list. As usual, I have grouped any series that have made my list into a single entry. Additionally, you can click the images to see their availability.
Trent’s Top 10 of 2021
It is always difficult to narrow down my annual list to ten titles. The top five were easy to slot in, but there were another eleven I wanted to list. I have once again included the honorable mentions that did not make the final cut so that all the books I think were remarkable are included.
This year’s list sees the return of a few of my perennial favorites, though sadly, there is no new Steph Cha book for me to add to the list, and I am not picking up the final volume of The Expanse series until later today. Here is what made me 2021 Top Ten list:
10. Eathereater – Dolores Reyes
A young woman begins to feel compelled to eat dirt soon after her mother dies. When she does eat earth, she has visions of people with a connection to that soil. Though the locales are unsettled by her ability, people begin leaving jars of dirt with notes pleading for her assistance. This short novel was truly unique and unsettling.
9. Bullet Train – Kotaro Isaka
Bullet Train is an odd balance of fast-paced action, quirky humor, and Japanese psychological thriller. Mayhem ensues when a mix of criminals-for-hire and a youthful psychopath end up on the same train for several interrelated reasons. I have always had a soft spot for books set on trains, and the Shinkansen is a key to the story as the Orient Express in Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit. The movie adaptation is set to be released next year.
8. All Systems Red – Martha Wells
All Systems Red and protagonist Murderbot are unexpectedly charming. It is surprisingly easy to relate to Murderbot, who wants little more than to be left alone so they can watch their soaps. Funny and fast-paced, this slim novella left me excited to read the rest of the series.
7. Razorblade Tears – S.A. Cosby
Ike, a Black man, and reformed convict turned successful business owner, and Buddy Lee, a White good old boy ex-con with a penchant for drinking, would not normally associate with each other. However, when their married sons are murdered, both Ike and Buddy Lee are left with feelings of shame and regret over the strained relationships they had with their sons. Together, they start to look into the death of their sons.
6. Murder on the Red River & Girl Gone Missing – Marcie R. Rendon
Often my favorite crime novels are when the crime or mystery component takes a backseat to characters and setting to the point of the crime being almost superfluous. Renee “Cash” Blackbear, one of the disproportionate number of American Indian children removed from parental care and raised in various white foster homes, spends her days as a Minnesota farm laborer and truck driver and her evenings drinking and shooting pool in the local bars. Cash occasionally serves as an unofficial sidekick to the local Sheriff, and when a body is found in a field, Cash begins to dream of the victim’s house and family. Cash and 1970s Minnesota Red River Valley are the reason to keep reading – and I wish there were more to read.
5. Untamed Shore – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Moreno-Garcia’s Velvet was the Night is on most of the 2021 notable books lists, same for Mexican Gothic last year and Gods of Jade and Shadow the year before that. That Untamed Shore managed to go largely unnoticed is a tragedy. This bildungsroman-cum-noir is more compelling and relatable than Velvet was the Night or Mexican Gothic.
4. The Secret Place – Tana French
Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series is consistently outstanding. I completed both Broken Harbor and The Secret Place in 2021. Broken Harbor was perhaps my least favorite of the series, and still very good, whereas, The Secret Place may be my favorite so far. French continues to cycle familiar characters from previous books into starting roles to excellent effect. I am excited to start the final installation of the series sometime soon.
3. The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen
The Vietnam War is coming to an end, and as Saigon is about to fall, a Captain begins to plan his General’s escape from the county. Together, with a select few, they flee Saigon on one of the last army transports over-crowded with other refugees. The Captain, half-French half-Vietnamese, a man of two minds, is a communist agent whose role is to observe and report back on the military cadre as they establish themselves in America. As suspicion of a mole rises, the Captain must deflect attention away from himself at terrible costs. This was a poignant and relevant contemplation of war, refugees, politics, and film considering the parallels of the recent withdrawal of the United States from Afghanistan.
2. The Queen’s Gambit – Walter Tevis
I started reading The Queen’s Gambit shortly after seeing that Netflix has released a new series based on the book. The story follows orphan Beth Harmon as she discovers and embraces her natural genius for chess. Beth’s struggles with loneliness and addiction are simultaneously exacerbated by and inhibiting to her meteoric rise in the national chess rankings.
1. The Library At Mount Char – Scott Hawkins
It is not too often that a book manages to be so thoroughly unique, strange, and enjoyable from start to finish. After my wife finished reading it, she insisted, nearly daily, that I read it immediately, not so I would enjoy an excellent book, but instead to have some to share in the same “what just happened” experience. I have since hunted down several RRPL staff members to ask them what they thought of The Library At Mount Char.
Trent’s Top 10 of 2020
While 2020 was, in many ways, an extraordinarily challenging year, it was, for me, a good year for reading. Once again, new books make up a smaller portion of my 2020 lists, with only a few from this year or last. Instead, I continue to enjoy exploring classics, the crime genre canon, and working through a favorite author’s backlist. Here are the best books I’ve read in 2020.
10. Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby
Blacktop Wasteland is an old-fashioned heist novel ripe for the big screen staring a modern Steve McQueen style lead. Beauregard “Bug” Montage is the archetypical getaway driver gone straight that gets pulled back into one last job that is too sweet to pass up in difficult times. There is nothing too new in the plot, following typical heist tropes. What Cosby does deliver is plenty of action and character with depth and a good backstory in Bug.
9. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
I never thought I’d be an Ann Patchett reader. But, a coworker frequently brought up Bel Canto when we discussed books and told me on multiple occasions I should read it. Since this same coworker badgered me into reading A Gentleman in Moscow, which turned out to be one of the best books I read last year, I figured I’d give Bel Canto a shot. A book that was so excellent; that even with a trash ending, it still ended up on my top ten list. This may sound like faint praise given the “trash ending” portion of the comment, but don’t let that ruin what is otherwise a sublime book for you, and you might even enjoy the ending.
8. Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
I enjoy travel and nature writing, but often I get annoyed with the author’s peevish or moralistic insight or their lengthy rapturous prose capturing the awe-inspiring world we all inhabit. Macfarlane skews hard toward rapturous prose, and clocking in near 500 pages, Underland is lengthy. With that said, Macfarlane does an amazing job making you feel the underworlds he visits. There is one passage that portrayed such a profound sense of claustrophobia that I was unsure if I was going to be able to finish the chapter. Another chapter exploring the catacombs of Paris is among the most fascinating pieces of travel literature I have ever read. Also, the cover art was fantastic, and the sole reason I picked up the book in the first place.
7. Tiamat’s Wrath (The Expanse #8) by James S.A. Corey
I wouldn’t have thought that the eighth book in a nine-book space-opera series would be my favorite one yet. The Expanse has been a remarkably consistent series, both in quality and publishing schedule (I’m looking at you, George R.R. Martin). More than any other book, the next book in this series is the one I’m most looking forward to reading next year.
6. Monstress, Vol 5: Warchild by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
Each new collection of Monstress continues to blow me away. Foremost because Takeda’s art is stunning. I’ll continue with this series for as long as Takeda does the art. Though progressing unhurriedly, the story continues to excel as well. War arrives early in this volume, and the inevitable devastation follows. This series remains complex, and I’m considering a reread to refresh myself on the early storyline. I am envious of anyone that gets to jump into the series now and can read multiple volumes without having to await the next release.
5. The Likeness (The Dublin Murder Squad #2) by Tana French
I read Tana French’s In the Woods two years back and loved it. However, I couldn’t imagine enjoying The Likeness as much with only some of the characters returning for this book. Needless to say, since it’s on my Best Of list, that I needn’t have worried. A few elements to the storyline seem rather unlikely. For example, Cassie is a perfect doppelganger for a murder victim. However, the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can focus on the engaging characters. I learned my lesson with The Likeness and didn’t wait long before picking up Faithful Place, also very enjoyable, the next in French’s Dublin Murder Squad series.
4. The Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
I’m still working through the oeuvre of Don Winslow, so it’s too early for me to argue that you should read everything by him. However, having read three more of his novels read this year, I have yet to be disappointed with any of his books. The Winter of Frankie Machine and The Death and Life of Bobby Z, to a slightly lesser extent, were a lot of fun, and I would highly recommend them. However, it is Winslow’s Power of the Dog, a fictionalization of the war on drugs, that leads the pack.
3. Dead Soon Enough (Juniper Song #3) by Steph Cha
Read everything by Steph Cha. There aren’t as many books by her as I’d like, only four, but they’re all phenomenal. Three Juniper Song Marlowe-inspired PI novels, revitalizing the LA noir tropes in interesting and intelligent ways. Dead Soon Enough being the final of the Song novels. The fourth book is the lauded and award winning Their House Will Pay that revolves around the 1992 LA race riots.
2. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They by Horace McCoy
I had heard of marathon dance competitions, but until reading They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, I never considered them much and certainly not as bleak and miserable experiences. Robert and Gloria, two strangers with nothing to lose in depression-era California, meet and enter a marathon dance competition as partners. They battle extreme physical and mental exhaustion and producers with schemes to create hype and excitement in order to bring in crowds – at the expense of the contestants.
1. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
At the onset of World War I, Paul Bäumer and several of this high school classmates enlist in a rush of patriotic fervor, incited largely by their teacher’s impassioned jingoistic speeches. Their enthusiasm is bombarded as soon as they reach the trenches of the front. Remarque masterfully writes the German counterpart to Wilfred Owen’s English poem Dulce Et Deocrum Est. “My friend, you would not tell with such high zest / To children ardent for some desperate glory, / The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est / Pro patria mori.” (Dulce et Decorum Est)
Trent’s Top 10 of 2019
I always enjoy making this year-end list as it provides me an opportunity to reflect on another year of reading, and reflection quickly turns into contemplating future reading. I highly recommend it. It is highly satisfying to revisit titles you have enjoyed and to consider your plans for reading in the new year, be it more broadly, more deeply, or another goal.
Like many of my colleagues, I have struggled to keep my list to ten titles and included additional notables at the end.
10. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – Olga Tokarczuk
Janina is, to be kind, a bit of an odd duck. She lives alone in rural Poland, and when one of her very few neighbors is found dead, Janina instinctively knows why. The animals, obviously, have sought revenge on the neighbor for his cruel hunting activities. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead makes the reader listen to someone we might be guilty of otherwise ignoring or marginalizing. Olga Tokarcruk was belatedly awarded the Noble Prize in Literature for 2018 in November 2019, and I am excited to read more of her translated work.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vol 1: High School is Hell – Jordie Bellaire
This is Buffy rebooted, and, much to my surprise, it starts off with a lot of promise. The last few seasons have been either lackluster with brief respites or terrible. So, I was interested but skeptical that rebooting the series by a new creative team back to Buffy’s first days at Sunnydale High would succeed. The comic does a nice job reinventing all the main characters but keeping them recognizable to fans that have continued to follow the series. Here’s hoping the good work continues.
8. Normal People – Sally Rooney
Though I posted a review of Normal People on “What We’re Reading Now…” in May, I still find myself occasionally thinking back to this book. It has made me, on occasion, consider things from a different perspective. While Normal People was generally rife with upsettingly poor decision making by everyone – it was at the same time believable and relatable. And, if I am still thinking about the book seven months later, then it’s bound to be on a top ten list.
7. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
I picked this up off an inn’s bookshelf six years ago when in Vermont for a wedding. By the time I had to go join the wedding festivities I had read a good third of the book and was really enjoying it. Though every few months I would remember that I had wanted to check out a copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God and read it in its entirety, it took far too long to return to. Beautifully written and a work I should have been introduced to in high school.
6. The Raven Tower – Ann Leckie
I included The Raven Tower in March’s “What We’re Reading Now…” Leckie creates a fascinating world shown from an unexpected perspective. I really enjoy how the author plays with language and perception.
5. The Real Cool Killers – Chester Himes
The Real Cool Killers is a classic 1950s hardboiled detective novel. Though instead of L.A., Marlowe, and femme fatales, it is Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed and in Harlem where the cynicism isn’t shrouded in glitz.
I did include the excellent A Rage in Harlem by Himes, which introduces Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed, in an earlier “What We’re Reading Now…”
4. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: The Complete Series – Hayao Miyazaki
Set many years after biological warfare has destroyed most of the planet, opposing forces are set mustering for a war that may destroy what remains. Nausicaä, called to serve in her father’s place, has the unique ability to communicate with the fearsome creatures that inhabit the changed world. Using her abilities, Nausicaä must fight to preserve what is left of the world around her. Miyazaki will leave you thinking deeply about how we interact with the world around us, environmentalism, war, and more. Not to mention the art is sublime.
3. A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles
I kept putting off reading A Gentleman in Moscow even though a coworker kept insisting I go read it immediately, because, honestly, how worth it could be to slog through 500 pages of some guy being sequestered in a hotel for decades? I saw no reason to suffer right along with Count Rostov. She was right, it is a wonderful book, and if you have not read it, you should go do so right now. You will not suffer, instead, you will find unexpected joy right alongside the Count.
2. Beware, Beware – Steph Cha
Juniper Song is a devotee of Phillip Marlowe, and in her first appearance in Steph Cha’s excellent Follow Her Home Juniper’s only experience as a P.I. is from what she has learned in Chandler novels. Juniper, now employed with a investigate firm as an understudy working towards becoming a licensed investigator, has some real-life experience under her belt when a case she’s asked to work quickly turns into a Hollywood murder scandal. Juniper Song is the modern-day Marlowe we deserve.
1. Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata
I read this a week or two after posting last year’s Top 10, and I have been eagerly waiting to put it on this list since. Keiko has a hard time relating to societal expectations and is uninterested in love and advancing her career. She struggles to hide her real interest in and dedication to her current role as a convenience store clerk, as she knows she won’t be understood and accept otherwise. A funny, quirky, and occasionally, heartbreaking novella. However, to be fair, I may be biased in part due to my love of Japanese 7-11 and Lawson convenience stores.
Tales From the Inner City – Shaun Tan
Lazarus: The First Collection – Greg Rucka, Michael Lark
The Long-Legged Fly – James Sallis
Silent City – Alex Segura
Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life– Eric Klinenberg
Trent’s Top Ten of 2018
The top titles I read this year turned out to be mostly crime fiction. A few other genres sneak in, but I have them mostly relegated to honorable mentions and to a special section for on-going graphic novel series. Even if most of the titles are contained with the crime genre, I have tried to read from a diverse array of authors.
Bearskin (2018) – James A McLaughlin
Rice Moore to find safety seclusion from his past has taken a job as a caretaker of a remote Appalachian nature preserve. However, when he comes across a poached black bear in the woods things start falling apart as soon as he starts making inquiries with the locals who are generally wary of outsiders. Rice spends a lot of time in the untouched Appalachian wilderness which McLaughlin lovingly writes at length in vivid prose. This is a thriller that will be enjoyed most by those that also enjoy a walk in the woods.
French Exit (2018) – Patrick deWitt
I adore reading deWitt. I honestly do not much care what is happening in his stories. Rather, it is his unique perspective and witty presentation of absurd situations that cannot get enough of. This is not my favorite deWitt book – like I said above, I enjoy a western, and The Sisters Brothers is a masterpiece – but it is a great deal of fun all the same. In French Exit, deWitt lampoons New York high society.
Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) – Attica Locke
Lark is a rural East Texas town that has had two suspicious deaths in quick succession; one a black out-of-state visitor, the other a white local girl. Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, decides to head on up to Lark and take the lay of the land. However, Mathews is still suspended from the Rangers, and the local white sheriff is more interested in sweeping things under the rug than stirring up trouble. And a strong undercurrent of racial tension running through Lark means there is a lot of trouble to be had. Full of flawed and interesting characters, rich East Texas atmosphere, and compelling story this was my favorite of the year.
The System of the World (2014) – Neal Stephenson
The conclusion of Stephenson’s nearly 3000-page trilogy, Baroque Cycle, is just as ambitious as the first two volumes. A dense, complicated series that sprawls through history as Europe begins to enter the Age of Enlightenment. The Baroque Cycle defies to be pigeonholed to a genre; it is part swashbuckling pirate adventure, part history of calculus, part political thriller, and so much more. Though this series was sometimes a slog it is also the series I continue to contemplate and itch for more. Perhaps, Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon will be the balm.
Doc (2011) – Mary Doria Russell
I enjoy a western. There is something about the legends we have constructed around the historical figures and locations of the time that captivate me. In Doc, Russell does just that by blending fact in fiction as young Dr. John Henry Holliday, also known as Doc Holliday, begins practicing dentistry on the Texas frontier. Holliday finds it difficult to pay bills on dentistry alone and soon takes up professional gambling and befriends the Earp brothers. The rest is history… mostly.
A Drop of the Hard Stuff (2011) – Lawrence Block
A Drop of the Hard Stuff is the seventeenth, and likely final, book in the Matthew Scudder series. While this is a good installment in the series, its selection in this list is so that I can recognize the phenomenal series. The series begins with a disillusioned Matthew Scudder in 1970s New York that has quit his job with the NYPD and taken up unlicensed PI work and drinking. Scudder ages in real time and as the series progress Scudder grows and changes with the world around him. He stops drinking, starts attending AA, and makes and loses friends and relationships. By the end of the series, Scudder is both the same man and a very different one. The series spans four decades and it is intensely rewarding to journey along with Scudder as he and New York evolve with time.
This was the most fun I had with a book this year. The unnamed narrator, a young woman with limited prospects, takes a job keeping books at a small nightclub. Soon she begins practicing some shady accounting and is taken under the wing of the infamous and ruthless Gloria Denton. Casinos, racetracks, heists – all the money in the city runs through Gloria before it makes its way to the big bosses out of town. Gloria will provide access to the action and the lavish lifestyle if only the narrator can keep from falling for the wrong guy. Megan Abbott takes the bones of the same old, time-tested gangster story and gives it new life. By the end symbols of toxic masculinity are kicked apart and lay shattered and bloody on the floor.
The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970) – George V. Higgins
Eddie recently got jammed up by the cops while driving around Vermont with a truck full of stolen booze. Now that he’s back in Boston with a little time before his sentencing, he’s hoping Foley, a local cop, can put a good word in for him if he feeds Foley a little information. Eddie, who’s still running guns for the local mob, wants to rat on his source of guns, not the mob boss that Foley is aiming for. Eddie might not want to go to jail but he’d in an uncomfortable position if people knew he is ratting. Everyone has an angle and friends are friends only until they aren’t. Elmore Leonard style dialogue drives this novel that Leonard also called the best crime novel ever written.
The Grifters (1963) – Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson is not exactly known for invoking the warm and fuzzies with his novels. If you are searching for something to brighten your day or your view of humanity, look elsewhere. The Grifters starts with Roy Dillion, a successful short con man, having a bad day. An easy con goes awry, and he gets an unlucky slug in the stomach that causes unexpected and lasting damage. While laid up healing Roy’s structured life continues to slip away as he tries to balance the three competing women in his life.
In a Lonely Place (1947) – Dorothy B. Hughes
For the last several years crime novels are the genre that has made up the majority of my reading. So, when I stumble across an article from an author that I respect, Megan Abbott in this case, and she is calling out In a Lonely Place as a groundbreaking, and subversive novel canon to the genre, my ears perk up, and my to-read list grows and so should yours. Read my recent Read it or Weep summary here.
Best Continuing Series:
Giant Days, Vol. 7 (2018) – John Allison (Author) and Liz Fleming (Illustrations)
This British bildungsroman centers on three university students as they transition into the complex world of adulthood and living on their own. Even though the young adults are frequently melodramatic and angsty – as one would expect – it is a series that is immensely humorous, fun, and finds the joy in life even feels hopeless and chaotic.
Lumberjanes, Vol 7: A Bird’s-Eye View (2017) – Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Ayme Sotuyo
Though I no longer even make an attempt to maintain an up-to-date awareness of teen and juvenile publishing, I make sure to know when the next Lumberjanes is to be released. I was on the verge of dropping the series as a few of the volumes had been a little lackluster, but A Bird’s-Eye View was so pleasantly absurd that I am fulling back on the Lumberjanes bandwagon. The Lumberjanes inhabit a diverse and adventure-filled world where obstacles are overcome through teamwork and acceptance.
Varina (2018) – Charles Frazier
Monstress Vol. 3 (2018) – Majorie Liu (Writer) and Sana Takeda (Artist)
The Bear and Nightingale (2017) – Katherine Arden
The Fifth Season (2015) – N.K. Jemisin
Out (1997) – Natsuo Kirino and Stephen Synder (Translator)
Trent’s Top 10 of 2017
Top Ten of 2017
2017 was another excellent year in publishing. Unfortunately, I missed large swathes of this year’s best; Celeste Ng’s Little Fire’s Everywhere, Roxanne Gay’s Hunger, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and Nightingale are all glaring omissions from my list as I was too busy catching up on previous year’s best. However, here are the ten best that I read in 2017. Ordered by earliest read.
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Correy
As an idealist XO finds himself and his crew at the center of political tensions between Earth, Mars, and the Belt threatening to devolve into war, his path crosses with a jaded detective in search for a missing woman. Leviathan Wakes kicks of the epic space opera series The Expanse – seven of an anticipated nine novels have been published – that gets better with each book.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates writes in the form of a letter to his son about the construct of race in America. Powerfully written, this will inevitably trigger an emotional reaction to the reader.
Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman provides with this slim volume a simple yet elegant retelling of a selection of Norse myths that form a vague narrative arc.
The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated by Helaine Olen & Harold Pollack
Personal finance is very often a confusing and stressful topic. Olen and Pollack attempt to circumvent complexity and anxiety by outlining 10 simple rules that can fit on a single index card.
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Herrera is like no one else I have read. Cons is a parable crossed with noir, where extravagance is juxtaposed to humble. Separate worlds are made permeable by corruption, ambition, and desire.
Bitch Planet, Vol 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick
DeConnick credits the creation of B Planet partly as a reaction to fan criticism of a perceived feminist agenda she imparted during her tenure writing for Marvel Comic’s Captain Marvel. In this over-the-top graphic novel any woman deemed “noncompliant” is shipped to an off-world women’s prison referred to as B Planet. Suggested for mature audiences.
The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth
This accessible dive into rhetorical devices is easily the most fun I had with a book this year. Why are some phrases memorable and others forgettable? Rhetoric. How does that make for a truly enjoyable read? No clue.
Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence
Snarky librarian Spence shares letters she wrote to books that she had “relationships” with. Dear Fahrenheit is the literary equivalent of having a conversation with a librarian over a few drinks – very entertaining and will undoubtedly add books to your to-read list.
Monstress Vol 2 by author Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda
Takeda’s gorgeous illustrations bring to life a steampunk inspired world where a young woman seeks answers about her mother and while staving off the dangerous and otherworldly power within her. Begin with Volume 1.
In the Woods by Tana French
A masterful psychological thriller masquerading as an Irish police procedural this is the best of both worlds. You might recognize Tana French as her eighth novel in her Dublin Murder Squad series, The Trespasser graced multiple best of 2016 lists. Start anywhere in the series, but find time to return to In the Woods.
Honorable Mention: The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed our Minds by Michael Lewis; Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders; Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel; Kristan Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset; several books in Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder series.